Community Matters: Dr. Opal Lee & Mrs. Dione Sims

Dr. Opal Lee & Mrs. Dione Sims
Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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This month on Community Matters, we are truly honored to be joined by 97-year-old activist Dr. Opal Lee, affectionately known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," along with her granddaughter Mrs. Dione Sims. Together, these remarkable women have walked miles—both literally and figuratively—to make June 19 a federally recognized holiday in the United States. Tune in to hear Dr. Opal Lee's inspiring message of hope, resilience, and her vision for a brighter future.

Known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Dr. Opal Lee was present on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act bill that established June 19 or “Juneteenth” a federal holiday. Dr. Lee said on that day, “Now we can celebrate freedom from the 19th of June to the 4th of July!”

Opal Lee was born in Marshal, Texas, in 1926 and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 1937. At the age of 12, her family’s home was destroyed on June 19, 1939, but she nor her family allowed that to deter them from making an impact in the community. She has served on many boards and with many organizations, including Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity (CCHD), Habitat for Humanity, and the Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society dedicated to preserving the history of the Fort Worth Black populace. During her tenure as Chairman of the Community Food Bank, the organization received the 1.3-million-dollar 33,000 sq. ft. facility that now serves 500 families a day.

Dr. Lee is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) a national movement started by the late Dr. Ronald Myers to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday. At 90 years of age, she started her walking campaign from Fort Worth, TX, to Washington, DC, to bring awareness to the need for celebrating Juneteenth nationally. She walked 2.5 miles in cities all across the country to represent the 2.5 years it took after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation for enforcement to reach Texas to free the enslaved. In 2019, she launched an online petition campaign that garnered over 1.6 million signatures to continue the crusade for holiday observance.

Dr. Lee currently serves on the board of Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Transform 1012 N. Main Street and is a Board Member and Honorary Chair of the National Juneteenth Museum. She has received seven honorary doctorates, has been named 2021 Texan of the Year by the Dallas Morning News editor

Dione Sims is the President and Founder of Unity Unlimited, Inc. a non-profit organization focused on producing educational activities and opportunities to support unity and understanding. She has produced the Annual Juneteenth Fort Worth Celebration with Dr. Opal Lee since 2015, engineered the Opal’s Walk campaign for Juneteenth national holiday recognition, developed the Your Voice Unleashed Fine Arts Workshop and Concert unity programming, and sponsored the Opal’s Farm urban farming project that seeks to reduce food insecurity and provide a means for second chance training and employment. Mrs. Sims served as the Founding Executive Director of the National Juneteenth Museum working to highlight the message of freedom that Juneteenth represents. She believes in the power of Juneteenth to bring people together to talk about the real issues facing our country.

Mrs. Sims graduated from Texas Wesleyan University with a bachelor’s degree in information systems management. She is a Software Quality Manager by vocation which matches her perfectionist mindset and drive for excellence in whatever she does. As immediate past president of the Fort Worth Association of Federated Women’s Clubs (FWAFWC) and chaplain of the Ethel Ransom Humanitarian and Cultural Club, she serves her community through special projects that uplift the family, women and young ladies to reach their highest potential. She serves on several community advisory boards including BRAVE/R Together where she champions for equitable solutions for her community, is a minister of theGospel, wife and grandmother. She has many talents and tries to use them all for the benefit of seeing other’s dreams accomplished


About Community Matters

Our monthly radio show invites subject experts and community leaders to talk about the challenges and inequities our region faces and possible solutions that could contribute to its growth. Hosted by Santa Fe Community Foundation staff, Community Matters airs on the third Wednesday of every month at 6:00 PM on KSFR (101.1 FM). Listen to past episodes here.

Jun 19, 2024
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